There are many great people in this world. The proof is that since the advent of man on this planet, the humanity has progressed considerably. The forces of goodness are mightier than the forces of evil. The contribution of great people has been and is so enormous that in spite of certain weak links, the civilization of humanity is moving forward. For instance, the medical science, scientific discovery, spiritual upliftment, education, philosophy, sports, health and hygiene, communication, standard of living, all are progressing. There is no denying of the fact that today we live in a better world than our ancestors lived.
The credit goes to those great inventors, spiritual leaders, social revolutionaries, social reformers, political visionaries, statesmen of the past and the present. In this page, 'Lives of the Great' I will discuss about only three persons here. They are Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo. I have chosen these three personalities to focus on, given our aim and limited capacity of work. I do agree that they represent only a miniscule percentage of great people that the world has seen. In the context of India, being a country with spiritual ethoes, they have influenced millions of lives.
I would feel very satisfied if this web site could reach out to those people who are seeking spiritual knowledge of India. My effort has been to share the spiritual wealth that these three leaders have been able to generate for the good of the millions.
So I appeal to all the scholars in East and West alike who have love and respect for this country to join in this effort. I am sure the posterity would bless us for our contribution for upholding India's spiritual heritage.
Swami Vivekananda was one of the disciples of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Ramakrishna who lived in a state of divine consciousness taught his disciples how to live life in a spiritual way. Vivekananda represented Hinduism in the world Parliament of Religions and established that all religions lead to the same goal. His lectures, writings, letters, and poems are published as The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. He felt it was best to teach universal princples rather than personalities, so we find little mention of Ramakrishna in the Complete Works.
Swami Vivekananda represented Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 where he was an instant success. Subsequently he was invited to speak all over America and Europe. He was a man with a great spiritual presence and tremendous intellect.
Most of the Vedanta Societies which were founded in America and Europe up through the 1930s can trace their origins directly to Vivekananda or the people who heard him speak from 1893 through 1900.
After his first visit to the West, Swami Vivekananda returned to India and founded the Ramakrishna Order in 1898. Another ashram at Mayavati was established in 1901. Read my mayavati travelogue on Mayavati Ashram
He was born in 1879 near Madurai, Tamilnadu. His father was a farmer. He was the second of three sons. The family was religious, giving ritual offerings to the family deity and visiting temples.
He used to ask fundamental questions about identity, such as the question "who am I?". He was always seeking to find the answer to the mystery of his own identity and origins.
He knew himself as Self and looked at others a reflection of his Self. He revered Arunachal as Shiva Himself.
When he was seventeen years old, Ramama left for Arunachala, arriving after four days of mostly train travel. He went to Arunachaleswar temple and spent his time in meditation.
Ramana also spent ten years living in temples and caves meditating, and pursuing spiritual purification, keeping the disciplines of silence and non-attachment. At this point, his reputation as a serious teacher (he was called Brahma Swami) began to grow and other seekers began to visit him. His disciples, some of whom were learned individuals, began to bring him sacred books. He became conversant with the religious traditions of South India written in the different regional languages.
Early disciples had a difficult time learning about Ramana's background and even his native language because he was silent and refused to speak. As time passed he ceased his ascetic phase and began to live a more normal life in an ashram setting. Many people came to visit him with a variety of problems, from both India and abroad.
Ramana's disciples constructed an ashram and temple, and space the accommodate the many visitors. All ate the same food and Ramana sat with the rest of the people during meals and did not expect special treatment. The ashram was a sanctuary for animals and Ramana had great fondness for the cows, monkeys, birds, and squirrels that inhabited the grounds.
Ramana continued to practice the method of inquiry into the nature of the self best expressed by the question "who am I?". The reality which is present in all the three states of our being, i.e., waking, sleeping and deep sleep stage can alone be called Real.
Ramana lived a frugal and detached life. He often used to say that this body of his is not the reality because Reality neither goes not comes. It is ever present.
Ramana developed cancer and when his devotees voiced concern about losing him, he responded with the statement "I am not going anywhere, where shall I go? I shall be there where I am always." He died in April, 1950.
Many people saw a shooting star with a luminous tail unlike any I had ever seen before moving slowly across the sky and reaching the top of Arunachala, the mountain, disappearing behind it. Ramana regularly circumambulated the sacred mountain and advised others to do it as often as one could. Read my travelogue on Arunachal, the abode of Maharshi
Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15 August 1872. At the age of seven he was taken to England for education and in 1890 went up to King's College, Cambridge. Here he stood in the first class in the Classical Tripos and also passed the final examination for the Indian Civil Service. Returning to India in 1893, he worked for the next thirteen years in the Princely State of Baroda in the service of the Maharaja and as a professor in Baroda College. During this period he also joined a revolutionary society and took a leading role in secret preparations for an uprising against the British Government in India.
After the Partition of Bengal in 1905, Sri Aurobindo quit his post in Baroda and went to Calcutta, where he soon became one of the leaders of the Nationalist movement. He was the first political leader in India to openly put forward, in his journal Bande Mataram, the ideal of complete independence for the country. Prosecuted twice for sedition and once for conspiracy, he was released each time for lack of evidence.
Sri Aurobindo had begun the practice of Yoga in 1905 in Baroda. In 1908 he had the first of several fundamental spiritual realisations. In 1910 he withdrew from politics and went to Pondicherry in order to devote himself entirely to his inner spiritual life and work. During his forty years in Pondicherry he evolved a new method of spiritual practice, which he called the Integral Yoga. Its aim is a spiritual realisation that not only liberates man's consciousness but also transforms his nature. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, the Mother, he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Among his many writings are The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga and Savitri. Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950. Read my travelogue on Pondicherry (Puducherry)